PrEP+ seen as a miss by LGBTQ+ community; Ocean denies it


Kim Erlandsen | FlickrFrank Ocean announced a second PrEP+ party on Oct. 24 and a Halloween night event that were open to the public and held in Queens, New York again.

Sven Larsen, Marketing Director

Frank Ocean has come under criticism from members of the LGBTQ+ community for his queer themed parties, PrEP+.

Ocean, who rose to fame for his RnB records Blonde and Channel Orange, and came out in 2012, is being called dismissive of LGBTQ+ history and pandering to commercialize queer life.

Named after the drug PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, that is taken to prevent the contraction of HIV before being exposed to it, Ocean’s aim for PrEP+ was to reimagine what queer nightlife would have been during the peak of the AIDS epidemic if PrEP had existed.

In what Ocean calls “an homage” to the era, the first night of PrEP+ was held in The Basement at Knockout Center in Queens, New York on Oct. 17 by invite only.

This exclusionary guestlist prompted criticism before the music even started for the ironic call for an “inclusive” night that few were invited to.

The assumption that queer nightlife during the 1980s and 90s could have been rescued by PrEP angered many, as it was queer nightlife that became the rescuer for morale and fundraising efforts.

The thought exercise to reimagine LGBTQ+ history in terms of PrEP prompts fictional pondering that many feel differs from the reality of what happened during the actual epidemic.

Steve Weinstein, a journalist during the AIDS epidemic, said that nightlife didn’t stop during the era and instead became a way to communicate, educate and receive help for the trauma, according to Vice.

“Often, I was relieved to see people at parties; I had assumed they had died in the interim.”

Weinstein said the nightlife scene provided some form of community when “the rest of the decade became a seemingly endless blur of phone calls that began, ‘Did you hear about …,’ hospital visits, memorial services and trying to sort out the remains of a life snuffed out too quickly to leave a will.”

Journalist Mikelle Street echoed Weinstein’s points saying that, “The reality is that much of New York’s nightlife culture of the 80s and 90s were fueled by those living with HIV and those rallying around them,” according to Out.

Some parties, such as the Morning Party at the Pavilion, Black & Blue in Montreal, the White Party in Miami and nationwide parties for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis became fundraiser events themselves for AIDS organizations as well as the therapy and solace many people needed as Weinstein explains.

Queer nightlife staples such as voguing and house music became key parts for these fundraising events and LGBTQ+ history, with Ocean even citing the latter as inspiration for his upcoming project.

The PrEP+ parties coincide with Ocean’s reemergence into music with the release of “DHL.” Some have speculated that the PrEP+ functions as promotion for Ocean’s own career.

Criticism continued as Ocean released a $60 t-shirt with a PrEP+ design.

ACT UP, an HIV advocacy group that began during the height of the epidemic, criticized Ocean’s hiked up price, relating it to the expensive costs that many people face when seeking actual PrEP.

“‘We have prices of drugs that are running over 250 times the production cost, which is the price of a cup of coffee,” said ACT UP member Jason Rosenburg to Buzzfeed.

“It’s kind of a slap to the face for an issue we’re facing in the community.”

Ocean defended himself on his Tumblr account saying that “but the fact remains that despite price being a very real barrier to this potentially lifesaving drug for some, the other very real barrier is awareness.

He continued to champion PrEP’s for the “90% chance prevent [to]you from contracting HIV.”

PrEP itself has drawn several instances of backlash for the unknown side effects and assumption that taking PrEP protects users enough to have unprotected sex.

Forty-one PrEP users across the United States have filed a lawsuit against Gilead Sciences for continuing to produce the drug without rectifying issues that cause bone and kidney damage.